Friday, May 8, 2009

The Luggage Carrier

This morning, I begin to write not knowing what I will write.

I've noticed that I have a habit of thinking about what I will say before I say it. There is a process of formulation in the midst of life. The intellect creates a precondition based on surrounding circumstances, and the body delivers it.

Because I am reasonably clever (not a quality that I think becomes a man very much, in the end) I am often successful in putting across formulations that work. More often than not, they are designed to make people laugh -- and, of course, to show how clever I am. If there is a better example of the subtle works of ego, I don't know what it is.

I often catch myself in the midst of this formulating, and wonder what it is all about. The freshest and most delightful exchanges in my life seem to arise without such formulation. They are spontaneous and live within the moment, without a plan that precedes them. One might say that they are responsible -- a peculiar use of this word, to be sure, but there it is. I say responsible because they are a legitimate response, something that arises in direct relationship, not a pre-planned event to show off the ego or the intellect.

They come from not knowing.

This, of course, is the wellspring of anything real in the enterprise that we call "art." Real art arrives from nowhere and expresses itself perfectly and effortlessly. And the real art of living, as I have said before, lies not in the making but in the seeing.

So I don't know what will come as I write this. It simply arrives.

This is something like my life. I try to formulate it and imagine it; there is a part that attempts to preconceive it, to picture it, to lay it out in front of me the way it will be (or, perhaps more accurately, the way I think it ought to be.) But when my life actually arrives, it is utterly mysterious, magical, in every moment.

It isn't like the formulations or the imagination. It doesn't match the cardboard cutout that I made of how it should be. It is, instead, miraculously unformed, and a continuous surprise. It is playfully, delightfully, beautifully free of all the baggage I bring to it.

Of course, I usually don't see that, because I have all these heavy bags I need to carry. Parts of me are convinced that all of this stuff is absolutely essential and must be dragged along to each moment. Every moment needs a big, impressive pile of stuff in it. When I arrive at moments without my pile of stuff, it could be dangerous. The stuff is a talisman I hold in front of me in the desperate--and perpetually doomed--hope of eliminating this absolute uncertainty--which is, like it or not, the very essence of this process of living.

I evolved--man evolved-- to be flexible enough to handle this, yet I have become quite rigid.

I would like to end my career as a luggage carrier, because the tips seem to be extraordinarily low. I keep trying to do that, but I keep forgetting. Every time I forget, I pick the bags up again. As in a dream, I suddenly realize that I am carrying the bags. I drop them again, resolving to never again have a bag in my hands.

In the next instant, I discover myself with bags weighing me down once again.

So I come back again and again to this effort to stop making the effort of carrying all these damn bags.

Perhaps that's enough for today.

May our hearts be open, and our prayers be heard.


  1. Heh, I arrived here all prepared to respond to your previous post, but now I, too, shall have to be spontaneous.

    This is something I've noticed.

    I too have a clever side, and it likes to be recognized. When it comes to baggage, I carry a-plenty. And now and again I spot all this; you already know how long this lasts and how little changes.

    But every now and then, I come to an experience that, by comparison to everyday affairs, is like stepping into a clearing in the forest. What a relief! I can temporarily be better aligned, and proceed from there refreshed. Like a rest stop.

    Your post reminded me of the opening of The Great Learning, attributed to Confucius' nephew as I recall:
    "The point where to rest being known, the object of pursuit is then determined; and, that being determined, a calm unperturbedness may be attained to. To that calmness there will succeed a tranquil repose. In that repose there may be careful deliberation, and that deliberation will be followed by the attainment of the desired end."

    Specifically, the first phrase.

    It seemed to me as I read your post that your "being responsible to the present" is such a place of rest. A lot of lip service is given to living in the Now -- but it's the real deal when we actually abide there. Not much baggage required.

    Of course we will forget. But we also remember where we find rest. This is nothing you don't already know, I'm pretty sure, but just a little different angle. With my own practices, it took many years, but I reached a point where I recognized that they "refreshed" me, and after that I rather have gravitated toward them.

    Now I've said enough.

  2. Achhh.... baggage!
    So much stuff... too much stuff... all week long, stuff, stuff and more stuff... LOL
    This morning, before reading your post, I found myself shouting out loud "SHUT! UP! Juuuuuust Shut Upppp Already!" and it did.
    Thanks for the post. It's nice to of you to acknowledge the (seemingly) interminable.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.